LITTLE ROCK Kevin Russell is a man of multiple musical identities. Best-known as a founding member of The Gourds, a popular Austin, Texas, band, Russell has a new group, Shinyribs.
Fans of Russell recall his first band of note, The Picket Line Coyotes, which played a time or two in the mid-1980s at Juanita’s before falling apart in the early ’90s. Not to be deterred from his musical destiny, Russell formed The Gourds, who remain intact, he assures fans.
“The Gourds are still going,” Russell says. “But after 20 years of Gourds-ism, I felt like doing something else on occasion. So I branched out into this other thing, and now I’m bringing it to new places.It’s part of my regional expansion plan, into Arkansas and Oklahoma.”
Russell began performing solo shows in the mid-2000s under the name Shinyribs, bestowed upon him by a transient woman to whom he had given a barbecue meal. He has gone on to do monthly shows in Houston the past two years, as Russell has added members to his former solo show: Gourds’ drummer Keith Langford, bassist Jeff Brown of Cerebral Pony and keyboardist Winfield Cheek of Kentucky Fried.
“Keith is my brother-in-law, so I think of the band as sort of a musical partnership with him,” Russell says. “Jeff, the bassist, is kind of a ‘Wile E. Coyote’ guy who never seems to try, but probably has a room full of beautifully mounted Roadrunner heads. And Winfield Cheek is sort of a Forrest Gump character. He blew into Austin a few years ago, a graduate of Julliard, and he’s a wild man on piano, so I call him ‘Julliard Lee Lewis.’”
In 2010, Shinyribs released a debut album, Well After Awhile, on Nine Mile Records, which will also release a follow-up CD in mid-April. The debut album features acouple of duets: Ray Wylie Hubbard sings on “East Texas Rust,” and “Shores of Galilee” has Russell singing with Sally Allen, who is married to Bukka Allen, son of Lubbock musician Terry Allen.
“The new one, which will also feature an appearance by Sally Allen, will be called Gulf Coast Museum,” Russell says. “It’ll be original songs, except for one cover of thatold Gamble/Huff soul classic, ‘If You Don’t Know Me by Now,’ which I now do on ukulele. I play a lot of ukulele now, along with electric guitar. And I do a lot of dancing.
“I’m quite the dancer, actually. If it works for Beyonce, then it might work for me. I do promise to wear more clothes, though.”
Russell was determined to get back to the White Water Tavern after The Gourds played there in October and he heard more good reports on the club recently from a pal, Jimbo Mathus, who played there Feb. 15. Gourds’ songs will not be part of this show, however, Russell reminds fans. He does recall the fun that band had recording its most recent CD, Old Mad Joy, at Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock, N.Y., two years ago.
“At that time, Levon was doing well, and he would come in and check on us, making sure we were fine and had everything we needed,” Russell says. “Larry Campbell, who was the band leader and Levon’s right-hand man, produced our album, and he’s an amazing person. I learned so much in a 10-day period. Our drummer was blown away to get to use drum kits of Levon’s and Ringo Starr’s.”
Gourds fans can look forward to a new documentary film, All the Labor, which will be shown March 13-16 in Austin during the South by Southwest conference.
“A guy in Montana made the film, and it has a lot of footage that goes way back. It’s a true retrospective. Meanwhile, my new group, Shinyribs, is a super-entertaining band, a high-energy cross-genre excursion, which is a little more tending to soul and country than The Gourds.”
Russell is hoping another Kevin - Kevin Kerby - will join in at times, as well as opening the show, making it two Kevins for the price of one.
Opening act: Kevin Kerby
9:30 p.m. Friday, White Wa
ter Tavern, West Seventh
and Thayer streets, Little
Weekend, Pages 35 on 02/28/2013
Print Headline: Shinyribs glisten at White Water Tavern